UPDATED: Norway is known for its victories on the ski slopes, but not necessarily in the swimming pool. Until now, thanks to Alexander Dale Oen of Bergen.
The 25-year-old swimmer suddenly emerged as among the best in the world when he won the 100-meter breast stroke competition at the European Championships in Budapest this week. (PicApp photo at right.)
He followed that gold medal on Tuesday up with another victory in the 200-meter breast stroke event on Wednesday. That plunged him into the semi-finals and he ended up winning the silver medal in the final, swimming faster in the 200-meter competition than any Norwegian ever before. Daniel Gyurta of Hungary won the gold.
For Dale Oen, his performance in Budapest could easily amount to sweet revenge. As newspaper Aftenposten has reported, he dropped out of international competition while controversy raged over the use of so-called “super swimming suits.” He thought the suits ruined the sport.
His coach told Aftenposten that “there were many who laughed at him last year, but those who laugh last, laugh best.”
And Dale Oen was indeed all smiles after claiming his gold medal, although he didn’t allow himself much of a celebration. Just a bit of cake-cutting for the photographers before heading off to prepare himself for more competition.
His 100-meter victory this year was his first since winning a silver medal at the Olympics in Beijing and it was sweet indeed, because he also became the first person to swim the distance in less than a minute without the use of the suits that now are banned. He finished a full second ahead of his nearest rivals, Hugues Duboscq of France and Fabio Scozzoli of Italy.
A sizeable delegation of family, friends and fans had made the trip to Budapest, and were in the stands to cheer and wave the Norwegian flag. Four other Norwegians are also competing, all of them women, plus three divers. Ingvild Snildal placed 15th on Wednesday in the 100-meter backstroke. Sara Nordenstam was looking forward to the 200-meter breast stroke event on Thursday, in which she won bronze in Beijing two years ago.